Earlier this week I discussed why SEO is such a valuable tool for marketers. We know that search drives much of our time online, and allows us as consumers to navigate the web far more quickly and easily than we would on our own. Yet it’s often hard for businesses to consistently rank highly in organic search, due to Google’s ever-changing algorithms and the constant monitoring it takes to have a successful SEO strategy. That’s why a successful search engine marketing (or SEM) strategy should not only contain SEO for organic search, but paid search too. And like SEO, it’s all about optimizing for the searcher.
Paid search involves paying a fee to a search engine site (let’s assume Google) to have your ad displayed on the search engine results page when someone searches for certain keywords or phrases. According to Moz, paid search on its own is not a ridiculously successful inbound marketing strategy – paid listings shown by themselves have only about a 19% clickthrough rate. But using it to compliment other strategies, like SEO, increases the clickthrough rate of the entire search engine results page (or SERP) by a whopping 26%. Paid search (combined with great SEO) gives you double the visibility, which increases the probability of a conversion on your page – the whole point of putting an ad out there in the first place. Google AdWords, besides being Google’s main revenue point, allows businesses to advertise on certain parts of a search page based upon the keywords people search.
Keywords, as we know, are those important terms people input into a search query when looking for something online. You can obviously optimize your website and different pages to show up for certain keywords in organic search, but you can do it for ads as well. AdWords allows for three different keyword settings:
- Exact match, which will only display your ad if the keywords are exact and in the order you’ve specified
- Phrase match, which will display the ad if the search contains the words in the same order, but can also contain other words as well
- Broad match, which displays your ad when the search term contains any or some combination of your keywords (in any order)
These different settings allow for different types of audience targeting, which is highly useful for marketers. The right keywords are the foundation for a great paid search campaign: the next building block being ads matched to those keywords, with the final step being a landing page optimized for conversion. And guess what? You can actually optimize your landing page through paid-search ads. Cool huh?
But back to keywords: AdWords also has a handy-dandy tool called ad groups. In it, you can “bucket” keywords together based upon what searches you want your ad to be displayed for. It allows for excellent organization within your campaign as well as really, really good search targeting – and it all goes back to knowing your audience. You choose your keywords, create an ad that matches those keywords, and then optimize your landing page to that ad and the keywords that were its foundation. Google also includes a search term report that analyzes your ad campaign, so you can view when your ad came up when people searched certain keywords – it also includes words you may not have included in your ad groups, and ones that didn’t do so well. This allows you to further optimize your campaign for searchers so you can reach the right audience. For your ad to get displayed on the right search page with your specified keywords, Google ranks based upon two things: bid and quality score.
As you’ve probably guessed, your bid is what you’re willing to spend to get your ad displayed on a results page. Google allows for multiple types of bidding, such as pay-per-click (or cost-per-click), pay-per-impression, and cost-per-acquisition. Different bid types are meant for different marketing campaign goals: for example, pay-per-impression is really only useful for brand awareness, as impressions are the number of people who are seeing your ad but not necessarily clicking on it. Google recommends a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) strategy, in which you only pay when a visitor who has found your landing page through your ad performs a certain action. In their paid search eBook, Hubspot recommends a pay-per-click method as it gives the advertiser more responsibility to follow-through on the offer. This means you’re more likely to create a great ad and landing page, with an obvious call to action that easily guides your visitor through the conversion process. Google allows you to set your daily budget and actually spread it out through the day, so you can target your audience at the optimal point in the day (something you can figure out through their AdWords analytics and metrics). Bids are in auction-style format, but Google doesn’t position ads solely on the amount of money an advertiser is willing to give them: an ad’s quality score is just as (if not more) important, and can essentially make or break your paid search campaign.
There’s two different types of ad positioning on a Google search page:
- Top placement, where the three highest-quality ads are positioned, and
- Other placement, where up to eight ads are placed that are typically lower-quality or have a lower bidding price.
The quality of your ad will dictate where on the page your ad gets placed. Google’s quality score system rates ads on a one to ten scale, one being the lowest. A good keyword has a quality score of at least five: that being said, you want your quality score to be higher than your competitor’s, because your positioning on the page will probably be better if it is. Much like how Google ranks organic search results based on the relevance and popularity of the page, it says that the quality of an ad is based on its expected clickthrough rate, its relevance to the search, and the landing page it’s linked to. User experience should be the number one goal when deciding what keywords to use and the ads you’ve matched to them. Google’s smart, and it knows that if an ad is popular, it’s serving searchers the information they’re looking for. Your ad can be in any format as long as it tells viewers how to respond, what you’re offering, and the key selling points. A great ad should have a no-BS call to action, and send visitors to a landing page that follows up on exactly what you promised. Google says “chasing the number” should never be the driving force of an AdWords campaign or ad group: rather, make it about satisfying the searcher (just like SEO!).